Barbary sheep

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Barbary sheep
CITES Appendix II (CITES) [2]
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Bovidae
Subfamily: Caprinae
Tribe: Caprini
Genus: Ammotragus
(Blyth, 1840)
A. lervia
Binomial name
Ammotragus lervia
(Pallas, 1777)

A. l. angusiRothschild, 1921
A. l. blaineiRothschild, 1913
A. l. lerviaPallas, 1777
A. l. fassiniLepri, 1930
A. l. ornatus I. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1827
A. l. sahariensisRothschild, 1913


  • Antilope lervia [3]
  • Capra lervia [4]
  • Ovis lervia

The Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), also known as aoudad (pronounced [ˈɑʊdæd]) is a species of caprine native to rocky mountains in North Africa. While this is the only species in genus Ammotragus, six subspecies have been described. Although it is rare in its native North Africa, it has been introduced to North America, southern Europe, and elsewhere. It is also known in the Berber language as waddan or arwi, and in former French territories as the moufflon.


Barbary sheep stand 75 to 110 cm (2 ft 6 in to 3 ft 7 in) tall at the shoulder, with a length around 1.5 m (5 ft), and weigh 30 to 145 kg (66 to 320 lb). [5] They are sandy-brown, darkening with age, with a slightly lighter underbelly and a darker line along the back. Upper parts and the outer parts of the legs are a uniform reddish- or grayish-brown. Some shaggy hair is on the throat (extending down to the chest in males) with a sparse mane. Their horns have a triangular cross-section. The horns curve outward, backward, then inward, and can exceed 76 cm (30 in) in length. The horns are fairly smooth, with slight wrinkles evident at the base as the animal matures. [6]


Natural range

Barbary sheep naturally occur in northern Africa in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, northern Chad, Egypt, Libya, northern Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Sudan (west of the Nile, and in the Red Sea Hills east of the Nile). [7]

Introduced populations

In the London Zoo Barbary Sheep 2 (ca 1919-1940).jpg
In the London Zoo

Barbary sheep have been introduced to southeastern Spain, [8] the southwestern United States [9] (Chinati Mountains on La Escalera Ranch, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Palo Duro Canyon, the Trans-Pecos, and other parts of Texas and New Mexico), Niihau Island (Hawaii), Mexico, and some parts of Africa.[ citation needed ] They have become common in a limited region of southeastern Spain, since its introduction in 1970 to Sierra Espuña regional park as a game species. Its adaptability enabled it to colonise nearby areas quickly, and private game estates provided other centers of dispersion. The species is currently expanding, according to recent field surveys, now being found in the provinces of Alicante, Almería, Granada, and Murcia. [10] This species is a potential competitor to native ungulates inhabiting the Iberian Peninsula. The species has also been introduced to La Palma (Canary Islands), and has spread throughout the northern and central parts of the island, where it is a serious threat to endemic vegetation. [11] Aoudad has also been introduced in Croatia several times and there is a population in Mosor. [12]


Juvenile Ammotragus lervia, ZOO Praha 121.jpg

A. lervia is the only species in the genus Ammotragus. However, some authors include this genus in the goat genus Capra , together with the sheep genus Ovis . [4]

The subspecies are found allopatrically in various parts of North Africa: [7]


Barbary sheep Barbary.sheep.750pix.jpg
Barbary sheep

Barbary sheep are found in arid mountainous areas where they graze and browse grasses, bushes, and lichens. They are able to obtain all their metabolic water from food, but if liquid water is available, they drink and wallow in it. Barbary sheep are crepuscular - active in the early morning and late afternoon and rest in the heat of the day. They are very agile and can achieve a standing jump over 2 metres (7 ft). They are well adapted to their habitat, which consist of steep, rocky mountains and canyons. They often flee at the first sign of danger, typically running uphill. They are extremely nomadic and travel constantly via mountain ranges. Their main predators in North Africa were the Barbary leopard, the Barbary lion, and caracal, but now humans, feral dogs, competition due to overgrazing by domestic animals and drought [15] threaten their populations.


The binomial name Ammotragus lervia derives from the Greek ἄμμος ámmos ("sand", referring to the sand-coloured coat) and τράγος trágos ("goat").

Lervia derives from the wild sheep of northern Africa described as "lerwee" by Rev. T. Shaw in his "Travels and Observations" about parts of Barbary and Levant.

The Spanish named this sheep the arruis, from Berber arrwis, and the Spanish Legion even used it as a mascot for a time.

Aoudad ([ˈɑː.uːdæd]) is the name for this sheep used by the Berbers, a North African people, and it is also called arui and waddan (in Libya).

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bovidae</span> Family of mammals belonging to even-toed ungulates

The Bovidae comprise the biological family of cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals that includes cattle, bison, buffalo, antelopes, and caprines. A member of this family is called a bovid. With 143 extant species and 300 known extinct species, the family Bovidae consists of 11 major subfamilies and thirteen major tribes. The family evolved 20 million years ago, in the early Miocene.

<i>Capra</i> (genus) Genus of mammals, the goats

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<i>Ovis</i> Genus of mammals

Ovis is a genus of mammals, part of the Caprinae subfamily of the ruminant family Bovidae. Its seven highly sociable species are known as sheep or ovines. Domestic sheep are members of the genus, and are thought to be descended from the wild mouflon of central and southwest Asia.

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  11. Nogales, M.; Rodriguez-Luengo, J. L.; Marerro, P. (January 2006). "Ecological effects and distribution of invasive non-native mammals on the Canary Islands". Mammal Review. 36 (1): 49–65. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2907.2006.00077.x.
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  14. Manlius, N., Menardi-Noguera, A. and Zboray, A. 2003. Decline of the Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) in Egypt during the 20th century: literature review and recent observations. Journal of Zoology (London) 259: 403-409. doi : 10.1017/S0952836902003394
  15. Jamel Ben Mimoun, Jorge Cassinello, Saïd Nouira (January 2016). "Update of the distribution and status of the aoudad Ammotragus lervia (Bovidae, Caprini) in Tunisia". Mammalia.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

Further reading